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  • Writer's pictureCAITLIN ORSINO & HANNA BABEK

Senior Collections sewn together with memories

Mekenzie Barbosa with a piece of her senior collection on display. Photo courtesy of Mekenzie Barbosa

For an audience member at RUNWAY, it might be difficult to imagine just what goes into creating the pieces on the catwalk. Talk to a senior fashion design student, however, and you’ll hear about the many hours and late nights spent in Donahue that ensured the collections were perfect and ready to go. 

Seniors are tasked with designing and creating a collection of seven looks that encapsulates what they’ve learned in their years of fashion classes. It’s an endeavor that takes up most of their year, as the collection replaces the capstone projects and final exams or essays that other majors typically undergo. Alongside the pieces themselves, students produce video and photo content that is played while their models walk down the runway. 

Aside from the total number of looks, students have nearly unrestricted creative freedom when it comes to what they want their collection to be. Many choose to draw inspiration from their personal lives, hobbies and interests. 

Bennysha Nicolas was inspired by a favorite childhood TV show, the Powerpuff Girls, and designed clothing she imagined the characters might wear as adults. 

“I specifically picked the Powerpuff Girls because not only are they a pinnacle of most of Gen Z’s childhood but I feel that they represent a sort of freeing, fun, and bold aspect that I want my work to also represent,” Nicolas said. 

Nicolas said that her experience with past fashion projects has helped her to form a plan to approach her senior collection. 

Liah Brown with her knitwear garment from RUNWAY 2023 collection. Photo courtesy of Liah Brown

“I follow the process the fashion department has taught us over the 4 years here. I focus on each look, plan out the steps to create said look and go from there,” Nicolas said. “Once I ensure the look is made to my liking and fitted properly, I add the finishes and do a final fitting. Easier said than done as this process can take up to a couple weeks considering I have other classes and projects I work on as well. Nonetheless, the end result is very rewarding.”

Other students, such as Liah Brown, drew inspiration from their heritage. Brown’s collection blends together her Norwegian ancestry and her Connecticut upbringing. 

“There's this park called Wickham Park, a lot of people go there for track races, and that used to be my family's estate before they gave it to Connecticut as a park. So I did all my photography and videography there, so it's kind of connecting both sides of my culture together,” Brown said. 

Brown explained how her family history gave shape to her collection, primarily in part to her grandfather’s influence as she grew up. 

“My grandfather was very much telling me like, ‘Yes, my mom was the last living Wickham, like this is her whole story. Like, I'm going to bring you to the park, and I'm going to walk you around and I'm going to show you where everything was,’” Brown said. “So it was kind of like I didn't see it as this park. I saw it as like my family's house and like, going to like, visit people.”

Two of Brown’s favorite garments from her collection are her menswear pieces. “They're both very special to me. And I have to say that I've kind of detailed every single one based off of all the personalities of my models. I wanted to make sure that I had models of all size ranges, and making sure that they feel comfortable in garments just because that's such an important industry standard that we don't necessarily always handle the best in the industry,” Brown said. 

Isabelle Mendlen modeling a piece for Bennysha Nicholas's RUNWAY 2023 collection. Photo courtesy of Bennysha Nicholas

Isabelle Mendlen’s collection, “Reflection of Light” drew inspiration from her childhood in Seattle. Each look is a different color of the rainbow and takes imagery from a childhood memory. 

Her menswear garment is inspired by her father, who was a magician when he was in high school. “I wanted to create something that was very 80s and true to me and my design style,” Mendlen said. “Anyone who knows me, knows I love to bedazzle and make sparkly things. So each look always has some sort of sparkly element to it.”

Mekenzie Barbosa’s collection focused on her time at Lasell, incorporating metal detailing, textures and movement to explore the evolution of her design style. 

Before attending Lasell, Barbosa had no design experience and often felt like she was behind her peers in regards to developing her own style. 

“After having a break from normal college courses and returning from abroad I had made it my mission to find what my design style was. I can proudly say that I am happy with what I am presenting at RUNWAY 2024 this year and love every piece individually,” Barbosa said. 


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